• Happy birthday Sylvia Engdahl (Enchantress from the Stars) and Gloria Houston (The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree).
  • It’s the birth date of Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924), (The Secret Garden), Carlo Collodi (1826–1890) (The Adventures of Pinocchio), Yoshiko Uchida (1921–1992), (The Best Bad Thing), and James Ramsey Ullman (1907–1971) (Banner in the Sky).
  • Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species in 1859. On a related note, it’s Evolution Day. Read The Tree of Life by Peter Sis, Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman, and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

On November 29, many authors will head to one of their favorite bookstores to become booksellers for a day. Indies First was the brainchild of author Sherman Alexie, who wanted to celebrate what every author knows: that without independent bookstores and booksellers to carefully select books and support authors, our lives would be so much poorer.

At Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I will press our book of the day, Kate Milford’s Greenglass House—a perfect holiday gift for young readers ages ten through fourteen—into as many hands as possible. I must admit I was hooked on this book from the first lines: “There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you are going to run a hotel in a smugglers’ town. You shouldn’t make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing.” An adopted son of parents who run an inn in an old smugglers’ house, Milo Pine believes he will be spending a quiet Christmas holiday with his parents. But then mysteriously, one guest after another arrives, each acting and looking very strange. Each has multiple secrets that will be revealed over the next few days.

In a setup that recalls Agatha Christie, a group of strangers convene in an isolated spot and bizarre events begin to occur, with objects going missing and tensions building. Fortunately, Milo proves to have a very inquisitive mind, and with the help of a companion sleuth manages to discover why all these people have arrived at the inn. With plot twists that keep readers breathlessly turning the pages, Greenglass House will satisfy young sleuths everywhere, while its intelligent and compelling prose will also please adults. Fans of Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society hunting for another fascinating mystery will find themselves caught up in Milo’s satisfying world. Simple pleasure reading at its best, Greenglass House also works on a deeper level, as it explores the issues that face a young boy adopted from China, such as his feelings about looking so different from his parents.

A sense of place, a sense of history, and a sense of mystery coalesce in this compelling story. If only I could go to Greenglass House for the Christmas season, I would make reservations immediately. But because of Kate Milford’s brilliant writing, all of us can visit this enchanting old inn for a short period of time.

Here’s a passage from Greenglass House:

Milo Pine did not run a smugglers’ hotel, but his parents did. It was an inn, actually: a huge, ramshackle manor house that looked as if it had been cobbled together from discarded pieces of a dozen mismatch mansions collected from a dozen different cities. It was called Greenglass House, and it sat on the side of a hill overlooking an inlet of harbors, a little district built half on the shore and half on the piers that jutted out into the river Skidwrack like the teeth of a comb. It was a long climb up to the inn from the waterfront by foot, or an only slightly shorter trip by the cable railway that led from the inn’s private dock up the steep slope of Whilforber Hill. And of course the inn wasn’t only for smugglers, but what was who turned up most often, so that was how Milo thought of it.


Originally posted November 24, 2014. Updated for .

Tags: Seasons, Winter
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Greenglass House


  1. G. Perry says:

    This sounds like great fun and just what I need to read through Thanksgiving. I’m out to find this book today.

    I’ve also put Porter Square Books on my must-visit list next time I’m in Cambridge, as they sound just like my kind of book-family.

    Will report back!

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